If it wasn’t obvious by the champagne celebration, it was unmistakable with the puddle slides.
The UCSB women’s club field hockey team has done it again.
For the second straight season the Gaucho stickers captured the club sports championship trophy with a 2-0 victory over Cal Poly on Sunday afternoon, making them the best club team in the state of California.
“Winning the [club sport] championship again this year was awesome,” senior back Melissa Low said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out in my senior year.”
Santa Barbara’s championship was decided in an unusual way in that they played five games over the span of only two days to determine who the head honcho would be.
The Gauchos faced off against tournament participants Pepperdine, Cal Poly and UCLA for the whole ball and chain. UCSB hosted this deciding tournament for the fourth time in the tournament’s four-year existence, and it was more than just the home-field advantage that allowed Santa Barbara to dominate all of its opponents.
The Gauchos started off their three-day weekend early on Saturday morning with an 8:30 game against UCLA. Santa Barbara began the game in typical Gaucho style as they controlled the flow of the game, keeping the ball at their offensive end for the majority of play. The UCLA goalkeeper had her work cut out for her as UCSB unleashed shot after shot on goal.
However, it was not until midway through the second half that the Gauchos found the back of the goal. Senior midfielder Paige DeLong capitalized on a rebound she put past the Bruin keeper for what proved to be the game winner.
In game two on Saturday, UCSB faced central coast rival Cal Poly. Santa Barbara tied the Mustangs in a scoreless match on an unkempt San Luis Obispo field the weekend before and was ready for a dose of revenge. The Gauchos scored only once but that was all that they needed. The lone goal of the game came in the first half when junior midfielder Katy Smith sent in the game winner on a pass from back Kori Jenkins.
Though Santa Barbara played well in every game on Saturday, it was in the last game of the day against Pepperdine that all aspects of its game came together for the UCSB.
“Our passing was awesome, we had good communication and the defense was there,” Jenkins said. “We really played together as a team.”
If Santa Barbara was tired against Pepperdine, the players didn’t show it as they sent the Waves scurrying with their tails between their legs in a 6-0 shutout victory to end the day for both teams. Instead of showing signs of exhaustion, the Gauchos appeared inspired.
“We did a good job of playing our game and staying focused the entire time,” UCSB Head Coach Abbie Gaylord said.
Santa Barbara played Pepperdine again the following morning, and the result was identical to the first game. The Gauchos used a 5-0 win against the Waves as their warm-up for the championship game to be played against Cal Poly that afternoon.
UCSB came out of the blocks on fire to command the action from the opening minute of play. If the Mustangs thought they had a chance at the first place trophy, they were forced to think again as the Gauchos didn’t even give them a chance to get in their flow. Santa Barbara topped Cal Poly by a final score of 2-0, both goals coming in the first half.
The first goal came when freshman forward Janelle McDonnell scored off of one of 10 first-half corners to take the early 1-0 lead. The final goal of the game and season came when freshman forward DeAnna Spizzirri sent one past the Mustang keeper. The two-goal lead was too much for the Mustang offense to overcome in the second half, while they could barely manage to get the ball on their offensive side of the field.
“They played great out there,” Gaylord said. “I could not be happier with the way they executed everything from the passing, communication, rushing the pads, getting corners.”
Five girls on the Santa Barbara squad played well enough during the season and tournament to earn all-league honors. Juniors Smith and forward Kelly Utsumi, and seniors Jenkins, back Beth Loveless and DeLong put together sound seasons on their way to earning not only this individual award but the team championship as well.
The game against the Mustangs marked the last time that six senior Gauchos will dress in Santa Barbara’s blue game skirts. Seniors Stephanie Lucca, DeLong, Jenkins, Loveless, Low and Jo Szafirski have all made solid contributions to the program over the past four years and will be missed on the field in the future of Gaucho field hockey.
“After playing on a team for four years, you form close bonds with all the players,” Lucca said. “It’s going to be hard to leave a team as close as we are in a sport and at a school where I have had so many great memories.”